US Southwest Experiences Loss of Groundwater

The Great Salt Lake, U.S. Photo: X/ @CbrOvld

June 18, 2024 Hour: 9:39 am

While snowmelt offers temporary relief, it is not enough to stop the dramatic water level decline.

On Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a report showing that tThe U.S. Southwest faces continuing declines in groundwater supplies, threatening both human and wildlife in the region, with even record snowfall failing to stop the trend.


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The new study led by University of Maryland earth scientist Dorothy Hall analyzed 20 years of NASA satellite data, revealing that long-term drought and increasing water demands have strained water reserves in the U.S. Southwest.

Over the past two decades, the region’s underground water supply has diminished by 68.7 cubic kilometers. This volume is about two-thirds of California’s annual water usage and roughly six times the water left in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, at the end of 2023.

The research indicates that while snowmelt offers temporary relief, it is not enough to stop the dramatic water level decline that has been underway in the region.

“In years like the 2022-23 winter, I expected that the record amount of snowfall would really help to replenish the groundwater supply. But overall, the decline continued,” Hall pointed out.

One major factor contributing to this decline is upstream water diversion for agriculture and household use. As populations grow, so does water consumption, exacerbating the problem.

Additionally, runoff, increased evaporation and the water needs of plants suffering from hot, dry conditions in the region are intensifying the issue, leaving farmers downstream struggling to meet their needs.

The diminishing water supplies in the U.S. Southwest have severe implications for both humans and wildlife. Municipal water supplies are at risk, agricultural irrigation is limited, and exposed lake beds harbor toxic minerals from agricultural runoff and waste, posing environmental hazards, Hall said.

Source: Xinhua – NASA

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